The final blog in our Azure public Cloud series considers how Microsoft’s Azure sustainability credentials can help your business hit its environmental goals.
We all try to limit our impact on the environment and technology is one area that can have a serious impact on your organisation’s carbon footprint.
Keeping power-hungry on-premises servers running 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not only expensive, it requires a lot of power. Achieving their sustainability goals is one of many reasons businesses may turn to the Azure public cloud.
Public Cloud providers have a strong motivation to limit their impact on the environment. After all, it wouldn’t be a great look if the futuristic benefits of cloud computing had a severe environmental impact.
The race for a greener Cloud
There are plenty of ways Cloud computing could negatively impact the environment. The growing number of hyper-scale data centres around the world packed with always-on servers are obvious energy hogs.
Additionally, there’s the extraction of raw materials used to make the servers and networking equipment, the manufacturing process, the emissions of vehicles moving cloud equipment from factories to data centres and the hazards posed by equipment disposal.
In short, done irresponsibly, cloud computing could have a severe impact on the environment. However, a key way major cloud providers remain competitive is by prioritising their environmental efforts. As a result, these efforts can be passed on to you, meaning cloud computing can help green your business and achieve your sustainability goals.
The Azure sustainability journey so far
The good news if you’re considering moving to the Azure public cloud is that Microsoft has the most ambitious sustainability goals of any big tech company.
In January 2020, it set a target to be carbon negative by 2030. In other words, it will remove more carbon from the environment than it emits.
What’s more, by 2050 it plans to have removed all the carbon from the environment that it has emitted since its founding in in 1975, either directly or via electrical consumption.
Azure sustainability in figures
So how does Microsoft plan to achieve these ambitious goals? Looking at Azure specifically, the company plans to run its data centres on 100% renewable energy sources by 2025.
The cloud services provider is serious about accurately monitoring its progress on this front. In late 2020, it announced that its new Azure region in Sweden would monitor on an hourly basis how much of its energy consumption is based on renewable sources.
Microsoft also plans to replenish more water than it consumes and achieve zero-waste certification, both by 2030. Additionally, it has a goal to achieve net zero deforestation from construction work related to the company’s facilities.
There are also technologies under development aimed at improving Azure’s sustainability even further. For example, Microsoft has developed ‘liquid immersion’ cooling, which sees Azure AI chips immersed in dielectric fluid.
This will be particularly important as the increasing demands of advanced AI means these chips will soon run too hot to be cooled by conventional methods.
Submarines and cutting-edge batteries – innovating for a greener future
AI chips aren’t the only thing that Microsoft is immersing in liquid. In 2013, Microsoft launched project Natick off the coast of the Orkney Islands. Using technology from submarines, its aim is to develop self-sufficient underwater datacentres that can deliver cloud services more efficiently to coastal cities.
Further innovation is taking place through switching to less carbon-intensive fuels for the backup generators needed to keep data centres running during outages. There is also research in motion into the viability of replacing the generators with specially designed battery arrays.
In a nutshell – Azure is green and it’s getting greener. And because by adopting Azure you’ll be passing a lot of your technology provision over to Microsoft’s data centres, your business stands to benefit from the company’s approach to sustainability.
Shrink your carbon footprint through Azure sustainability
Microsoft has been carbon neutral since 2012 and a 2018 study by the company found that using Azure can be up to 93% more energy efficient and up to 98% more carbon efficient than on-premises solutions.
This is down to four factors that all relate to the economies of scale brought about by having your computing needs supplied by a much larger operation.
Cloud services can:
- Offer far greater operational efficiency than on-premises solutions – through processes like dynamically provisioning resources for your needs as they arise
- Run on more efficient equipment than you can buy off the shelf – Companies like Microsoft invest in custom hardware designed to meet their (and your) specific use cases and precise needs, including energy efficiency
- Run more efficient data centres – Due to their scale, cloud providers can design facilities that are optimised for energy consumption
- Bulk-buy renewable energy – which further reduces their environmental impact
As you’ll know if you’ve assessed your own organisation’s sustainability milestones, it’s important to understand the impact of the third-party services you use, as well as your own behaviour.
Do the maths with the Azure sustainability calculator
To help you do this for your Azure usage, Microsoft offers a Sustainability Calculator. This web-based tool helps you understand the environmental impact of your Azure and Dynamics 365 usage. It does so via easy-to-understand charts and metrics that track your carbon usage alongside your level of cloud usage. You can even see how each individual Azure service affects your overall emissions.
Export usage data to inform your reporting
More than simply offering information that is good to know, the Sustainability Calculator lets you export data to contribute to your own formal sustainability reporting. This can help you identify opportunities to improve your environmental impact by adopting more Azure cloud services.
The message is clear – Azure Public Cloud adoption can help you unlock innovation while making an increasingly positive impact on our environment.